Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also called OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder. A person who has OCD has recurring or repeated obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts, ideas, or images that persist in the mind.
The exact cause of OCD is not known. Recent studies have shown abnormal patterns of brain activity in people with OCD. The abnormalities occur in a part of the brain called the striatum.
Obsessive-compulsive behaviors may be an attempt by the person to reduce anxiety. People who have OCD are usually distressed because they know that their behavior and thoughts are inappropriate.
People with OCD may have a wide variety of obsessions and compulsions. Some common examples include: attempts, usually unsuccessful, to stop or ignore thoughts and behaviorsexcessive cleaning, usually due to a fear of germsexcessive hand-washingfollowing an arbitrary set of rules for behaviorhoarding useless or unnecessary itemsperformance of a ritualistic sequence of behaviorsrepetition of activities or wordsrepetition of a behavior until it is done perfectly
The exact cause of OCD is not known. It generally begins in childhood or adolescence. OCD tends to run in families. The sense of helplessness and the impairment with OCD may lead to depression. OCD is often seen together with other psychiatric disorders, such as: alcohol abuseattention deficit disordersdepressiondrug abuse or addictioneating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimiaother anxiety disorders
There is no known way to prevent OCD.
Diagnosis of OCD begins with a medical history and physical exam. There are no specific tests for OCD. The healthcare provider will ask about any obsession or compulsive behavior. OCD is diagnosed if the behaviors take up more than an hour of the day or if they cause real distress.
The Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) is sometimes used to measure the severity of the symptoms. Anxiety scales can also be used. These scales are designed to track response to treatment.
OCD is considered a chronic disorder. The course of the disorder is variable. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or grow progressively worse. Treatment should help the person learn to recognize symptoms before they become severe. If symptoms worsen, the individual may need to resume therapy or medicines.
OCD is not contagious. It does tend to run in families.
Treatment for OCD usually involves both therapy and medication
Exposure and response prevention therapy is very useful for treating OCD. In this approach, a person is exposed to whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts. The individual is then taught techniques to avoid performing the compulsive rituals. He or she is also taught to deal with the anxiety.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also used to treat OCD. The provider helps the person change his or her attitudes and beliefs. The individual learns to react differently to obsessions or compulsions.
Relaxation techniques may also be helpful. They help the person to control the body's reactions to anxiety.
Following is a list of antidepressant medications used to treat OCD: clomipramine (i.e., Clomid, Serophene)fluoxetine (i.e., Prozac, Sarafem)fluvoxamine (i.e., Luvox)paroxetine (i.e., Paxil, Paxeva)sertraline (i.e., Zoloft)
Medications may take weeks to show any improvement in OCD. If one medicine is not effective, others can be tried.
Neurosurgery may be performed for severe cases of OCD. It is done only if all other treatment has failed and the person is severely disabled.
Antidepressants may cause mild and usually temporary side effects in some people. Here is a list of the most common side effects: agitationconstipationdizzinessdrowsinessdry mouthnausea
Treatment of OCD is lifelong.
The person with OCD may have regular visits with the healthcare provider. The provider may order blood tests to monitor the level of medications. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the provider.